It’s hard not to compare these two shows — not only are both Netflix originals, but the plots of both feel extremely similar. Just swap out one US intelligence and security service for another. You can’t really fault either series or make the claim that The Night Agent is a ripoff of The Recruit, as these were both likely shot during the same timeframe. Prime Video has espionage-themed titles such as Jack Ryan, Reacher, and The Terminal List that have all drawn in big numbers, so why can’t Netflix get in on the fun and build out its own slate?
The Night Agent, which is based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quirk, centers on Peter Sutherland (Basso), a young FBI employee who works in the basement of The White House during a graveyard shift where his main job is to answer an emergency line that rarely rings. Months before the start of the series, Peter survived a terrorist attack on a subway system, with several conspiracy-minded individuals believing him to be involved. Right when Peter’s once-promising career seems to be turning into an uneventful slog, he receives an urgent call from tech CEO Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan), who bears witness to the assassination of her aunt and uncle. Peter soon finds himself tasked with protecting Rose and begins to uncover the truth that ties together the terrorist attack as well as the assassinations that point to there being a mole within the White House. Unfortunately for him, he’s also a suspect.
One might be quick to consider The Night Agent to be yet another conspiracy thriller series full of the same clichés and contrivances that you’d expect. It’s true that this isn’t the most original show of the year, but at the same time, that doesn’t prevent it from being an incredibly engaging watch. With 10 episodes, each clocking in around 45 to 50 minutes, The Night Agent is exciting, addicting, and successfully able to balance a storyline that could have easily become over-complicated. We’ve seen shows like this that start off promising but then fall victim to an overcomplicated plot where if you even blink, you may be missing a key plot detail. That isn’t what The Night Agent is. The storyline is concise and easy to follow without ever descending into simplicity. While there are certainly moments that aren’t the most realistic, it never takes you out or makes you stop caring.
Known for creating and co-creating series such as The Shield, Timeless, and S.W.A.T., Shawn Ryan is an expert at crafting exciting programming, and The Night Agent is no different. In fact, the show’s brisk pacing almost makes it feel more like a movie, and that’s one of the main reasons why the series works as well as it does. The cliffhangers at the end of each episode almost demand that you stay seated and watch the next episode. There’s rarely a dull moment, and it has the right balance of action, political intrigue, and familial drama — all while never losing focus on the plot at large, resulting in more than a satisfying first season.
Amidst all the chaos, The Night Agent also has a strong heart; through the course of the season, we learn not only about Peter’s relationship with his late father and his reasoning behind joining the FBI, but we also get to connect with Rose and understand her story. Basso and Buchanan are perfectly cast as Peter and Rose, elevating their characters beyond just the archetypes you might expect from a series like this. They have a natural chemistry with one another and while their relationship does go in some unexpected directions, it’s their delivery that makes you able to go with it. Hong Chau, who looks to be finally getting her due with her recently acclaimed roles in The Whale, The Menu, and Poker Face, continues her winning streak in the role of Diane Farr, the U.S. Chief of Staff. Chau is clearly the biggest stand-out; her character is one of the more complicated ones among the ensemble, often existing in a gray area and either at odds with our heroes or trying to assist them. Chau shows a clear understanding of her character, proving once again that she’s one of the most versatile actresses working today. There are aspects of Diane that are a bit underwritten, but fortunately, Chau’s acting overshadows her character’s shortcomings.
At times, the show borders on becoming too melodramatic in its writing. The plot, while compelling, is as predictable as you would expect, with not a lot of surprises. Some of the twists also aren’t nearly as shocking or surprising as the script clearly thinks they are. That’s not to say that the execution is boring, but it does have a very familiar sense to it. In the pantheon of action-thrillers on streaming, The Night Agent is definitely one of the more memorable ones. Those who fell in love with The Recruit will feel right at home with the new series, and those in need of another action title as they await the return of Reacher will also be more than satisfied. This isn’t breaking any new ground in terms of its genre, but it does manage to take what works in previous shows and run with it —which in reality, is all one can ask for. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
All episodes of The Night Agent are now streaming on Netflix.